Political Film Society - Uncivil Liberties

PFS Film Review
Uncivil Liberties


Uncivil LibertiesUncivil Liberties, directed and written by Tom Mercer, is an independent film with very limited release thus. The movie seeks to establish the premise that the Patriot Act of 2001 has resulted both in totalitarian surveillance and guerrilla resistance. Cynthia Porter (played by Penny Perkins) receives the most attention as the developer of an electronic tracking system for the Universal Residence Tracking System (URTS) for the Department of Homeland Security that can pinpoint the exact location of every person in the United States. (The GPS basis for the tracking mechanism is unfortunately not revealed: Either everyone is required to have a national identification card or an imbedded computer chip or, more likely, cellphones will increasingly have GPS capabilities.) While she develops her system, the Department is aware of a computer hacker codenamed Shoehorn, namely, Sam Norton (played by Tony Gracki). Shoehorn, in turn, is a member of a rural guerrilla movement, the Sons of Liberty, one section of which is headed by Commander James Swift (played by Tom Mahan). After Porter is identified as a key developer of surveillance technology, Swift places a hit on her to be carried out by Mike Wilson, Jr. (played by Glenn Allen), who lost his father in a recent caper and is reluctant about the operation. When Cynthia Porter’s sister Pat (played by Yvonne Perry) drags her to a party, so she can relax a bit, Wilson is at the property where the festivities are held. Back at Homeland Security, the URTS determines that Cynthia has been in the same GPS coordinates as Wilson, so she is considered a terrorist risk, is relieved of her duties with URTS, and quietly rethinks what she is doing for her country. Wilson, in turn, refuses to assassinate Cynthia, whereupon Swift asks Shoehorn to execute Wilson. Before the execution, however, Homeland Security bombs the compound of Sons of Liberty, Ruby Ridge-style, leaving two survivors, Shoehorn and William Sutton (played by Mark Musto), who has already killed Wilson. A subplot deals with a special unit of the Sons of Liberty that plans to bomb the local Homeland Security headquarters, just as indiscriminately as the bombing of the compound under Swift’s command. The point of the film is to demonstrate the awesome power in the hands of Homeland Security, both in terms of firepower and surveillance, and the counterreaction by a rural guerrilla group. The film provides considerable suspense despite underplayed acting but may leave filmviewers mystified. Is such a surveillance system possible? How many resistance groups exist? Is the Patriot Act (rather than the misused Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) really responsible for increased surveillance and preemptive violence against potential terrorists? Is security more important than First Amendment privacy? The latter question is not debated eloquently or persuasively by anyone, as action trumps contemplation on the part of those on all sides. Some of the questions might have been answered in titles at the end of the film, but instead there is a surprise ending. MH

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